For the second straight season, the Michigan women’s tennis team battled Stanford in the NCAA Tournament. Unfortunately for the Wolverines, they experienced a similar result as the year before, as they fell, 4-1.
While last year Michigan (23-5 overall, 11-0 Big Ten) made it to the quarterfinals, it didn’t fare quite as well this season, as its run ended in the Sweet Sixteen.
It appeared that the Cardinal (24-2 overall, 10-0 Pac-12) were going to dominate the matchup after they quickly took the doubles point, winning at No. 1 and No. 3 doubles, 6-0 and 6-1, respectively.
“We played a really poor doubles point and just weren't ready to go at the start of the match,” said Michigan coach Ronni Bernstein. “We really stepped up in singles to give us a chance in that match. I feel like we fought hard and put ourselves in position to win, but we came up short.”
Losing the doubles point was not foreign territory for the Wolverines. They needed to win four singles matches, a feat that they almost accomplished.
With freshman Valeria Patiuk dropping her No. 6 singles match, 6-0, 6-2, Stanford had a quick 2-0 lead. But all of the other matches could have easily gone in Michigan’s favor.
After sophomore Brienne Minor lost the first set, 6-4, she faced a 5-2 deficit in the second set. She fought off a match point and rallied back to win five straight games to force a third set.
Minor wasn’t the only one who battled to a third set, as four other Wolverines found themselves in a similar spot. Junior Alex Najarian won her second set, 6-1, and seemed poised to steal the third, but her opponent Taylor Davidson ended up running away with the final set, 6-3.
Strapped with a 3-0 lead, Stanford needed one more win to move on to the Elite Eight. But that win wasn’t going to come against sophomore Kate Fahey.
After cruising to a 6-3 win in the first set, Fahey stumbled in the second, losing, 6-1. She didn’t appear phased, though, as she gave Michigan its first point of the day with a 6-2 third set win. She was locked into a cross-court rally with Cardinal Caroline Doyle, but Doyle tried to change the direction of the battle down the line and sailed her shot long. Fahey pumped her first and yelled to her teammates, hoping to transfer her momentum to her teammates, but it wasn’t enough.
Just minutes later, junior Mira Ruder-Hook fell in a third set after dominating the second set, and Michigan’s season came to an end.
“We had a great season,” Bernstein said. “We had some people step up today and come through in pressure situations that you can't really put them in during practice. The only time you get that experience is in a tight match like that and I think that it is only going to help us.”
While the Wolverines may not have achieved their goal, they have set themselves up for an impressive season next year. They graduate only one senior, Annie Wierda, who missed most of the season due to eligibility issues after transferring. The tournament experience should only help propel a veteran squad to make another run for the title next spring.